December 7, 2006

Early-Morning Fire Claims Life of Memphis Man

A fabricated wood stove is being considered a possible source for an early morning fire on Monday, December 4th in Memphis that claimed the life of one man and left another resident of the home with severe injuries.

The Scotland County dispatcher received a call at 2:27 a.m. that the resident on the corner of Monroe and Sanders Street was on fire. The fire was reported by a neighbor who was awakened by the orange glow of the blaze.

Memphis Police Officer Jason Moss, who lives just down the block from the fire scene, stated that when he heard the page for the fire department on his radio, he looked out his window and saw that the home was already nearly fully engulfed by flames.

Firemen were on the scene in a matter of minutes and found flames shooting out the windows of the rear of the house as the blaze had already broken through the roof of the small one-story residence.

Containment efforts quickly turned to search and rescue after the department was informed that there was still one resident in the structure.

Bobby Whitlock, 47, the owner of the home, had escaped the burning building through a window but not before he suffered severe burns over nearly half his body, as well as lacerations from exiting the broken window. He was taken by ambulance to Scotland County Memorial Hospital and then flown by helicopter to Iowa City. He is a patient in the University of Iowa Hospitals Burn Unit.

Whitlock told rescuers that he had awoke from sleeping on a couch in the rear of the home to find the house on fire. Whitlock stated he attempted to wake a second occupant of the home, who was sleeping on the floor near his resting spot, before he exited the burning home through a front window, severely cutting himself in the process.

Firemen wearing air packs entered the home through the front door on Monroe Street, and began searching for survivors while battling the blaze. When the roof collapsed in two sections of the home, the search crews were forced out of the home and continued to battle the fire from outside.

The body of Gabor Ivan Kish, 38, of Memphis, was located in the rear of the home, where he reportedly had been sleeping. The roof of that portion of the home had been the first section to collapse, further hindering recovery efforts.

His body was transported to Scotland County Memorial Hospital under the care of Scotland County Coroner Ginny Monroe. An autopsy was performed and determined that Kish died of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by smoke inhalation from the fire.

Investigator Bill Albus of the Missouri State Fire Marshals office worked with the Memphis Fire Department to investigate the scene.

Friends of the two victims told investigators that the home was heated by a wood stove because it had no electricity or water services. Prior to getting wood for the stove a few days earlier, the occupants had used a propane turkey fryer as a heat source.

Firemen and rescue workers were on the scene well into morning, assisting with the collection of evidence as well as securing the scene from additional flare ups.

A total of 18 firemen answered the call, taking five fire trucks to the scene, located at 433 E. Monroe Street. The page was issued to the volunteers at 2:28 a.m. and the first fire truck was on scene at 2:34 a.m. The last fire truck was back at the station at 11:15 a.m. that morning.

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